Posts Tagged ‘Westwood Church’

Our Garden Plot at Westwood Church Community Garden

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

In the spring of 2012, Westwood Church started a community garden.  It is among my favorite things in the whole wide world.

Russ put a Square Foot garden grid and a small trellis on our plot.  I planted seeds and plants and took pictures.  Then I planted more seeds and plants.  And took more pictures.  And rearranged.  And took more pictures.

We had a huge delicious bowl of lemon basil pesto pasta, some wonderful beets and a few onions.  Otherwise, we just admired how beautiful the plants were.  And, you know, took pictures.

We met several gardeners from the surrounding neighborhoods who came to garden with us, gardeners from our own church family we had not known before, or not known well, and one very kind man walking his dogs who came to see the garden and ended up meeting the wonderful family that is Westwood Church.  I imagine there are thirty sets of such stories from thirty gardening families…just perhaps none who found themselves in quite as obsessive of a plant-photograph-rearrange cycle as I did.

So while the only tangible things I have to share this year are pictures, I do believe Westwood’s community garden was a beautiful, understated, resounding, incredible success.

Here are my pictures…

Max the Cat Teaches Sunday School

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Good News on Peanut Baby Jesus 2010!

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I KNOW this is a pet blog.  But I need to follow up on my LAST un-pet-related post, for those of you who were worried there would not be a Peanut Baby Jesus preschool craft this year, and those of you who were worried there would be.  Several friends stopped by class yesterday to make sure Russ still had all ten fingers.  (He does.)

I may have been overly focused on Russ’ bleeding last year, because I was reminded yesterday of other details of that day that I had forgotten.  Last year, Russ did a very cool carpentry project in which he spent the four Sundays of Advent building a manger and then reassembling it to be a cross, all up in front of church while Pastor Scott preached.  It was very powerful and moving.

On Peanut Baby Jesus Day last year, Russ did his part in front of church for first service, started Sunday School, got hurt, made it to Urgent Care and back and did his part in front of church for second service without even missing a beat.  Someone said yesterday, “How is it that Russ did that entire manger-cross project without incident, and does carpentry as a career, but was felled by a tiny fake peanut?”  Indeed.

I was also reminded of another event from last year, probably as traumatic as The Injury.  A student brought her craft home, accidently tipped her manger, and her Mom, stepping forward to help her, smashed the peanut with her shoe.  I did not capitalize peanut because it was, of course, not the Real Baby Jesus, but only a representation.  And her Mom still feels kind of bad.

Her daughter started sobbing inconsolably.  They raced to the grocery store, bought a bag of peanuts, sharpied a face onto the cutest one, and replaced Peanut Baby Jesus in his manger.  Yesterday, Mom whispered, “I still have that bag of peanuts, just in case.”

You will be relieved to know yesterday went much better than last year, with all fingers and all peanuts safely home and intact!  Kids can spend this week processing the incredible Christmas Story as preschoolers do best, in a hands on, playing sort of way.  Success.

Many friends and family members have asked for a Peanut Baby Jesus of their own.

2011 – Peanut Baby Jesus Making Party for Grown-ups

Bring snacks and drinks and safety scissors, leave your tools at home and take your shoes off at the door!  It’s gonna be awesome.

End of December 2010 Update: A very small person who shall remain nameless (It was, after all, merely a misfortunate misunderstanding) ate her big brother’s peanut, not knowing it was not “just” a peanut.  Mom of the 2009 Crushed Peanut kindly offered her emergency bag of peanuts to Mom of the 2010 Eaten Peanut.  All is well.

Christmas Memories

Monday, November 29th, 2010

I was just informed at our family dinner yesterday that we will not be repeating the Purple Christmas Tree of last year.  Actually, it felt like an intervention of sorts.  Mom and Dad made a big, wonderful dinner.  Dave and Sara were there.  Russ looked into my eyes and said, “We still have purple dust in the living room.”  Both daughters nodded silently.  (We don’t.)

So, I am sad to say, the purple flocked tree may be, instead of a new holiday tradition, only a memory.  Because I will only have a plain old pine tree to show you this year, and because this is an especially cute picture of all three dogs together, I have posted here my favorite picture from Christmas 2009.

Ebony, Joy and Noodle, Christmas 2009

“What Happened to Russ”

Also, perhaps only a memory…my favorite Sunday School craft ever:  Peanut Baby Jesus.  Russ and I teach three to five year old Sunday School at Westwood Church.  For the past several years, we have made Peanut Baby Jesus with the kids.  (We stole the idea from the awesome teachers of Two Year Old Sunday School after our oldest daughter came home with one years ago.)

Last year, we had one child in our class with a peanut allergy.  Being kindhearted, anti-anaphylaxis types, we thought it would be a good idea to use a shortened wooden clothespin for Peanut Allergy Kid’s Peanut Baby Jesus.

Russ is a carpenter…with no saws at church.  But there were steak knives.  Never say “whatever” when you are choosing appropriate tools for a task.  Russ tried to cut off the end of the clothespin, sliced his thumb, could not get the cut to stop bleeding (even with top-of-the-line veterinary intervention) and ended up at Urgent Care with several stitches.  He still has a scar.

Peanut Baby Jesus:  Materials: Bottom half of a disposable cup, squares of brown paper, craft hay, scrap of cloth, peanut, Sharpie, glue.  Assembly: Glue the brown paper squares around the outside of the half cup.  Fill the “manger” with hay.  Draw a face on the peanut and place the scrap of cloth over Peanut Baby Jesus.  Place Peanut Baby Jesus in his manger.

SAFETY NOTES: Use kids’ safety scissors to cut the cup in half and cut the paper and cloth.  Also, if you have a kid with peanut allergies in your group, choose a different craft!

Update on The Purple Christmas Tree, 2010:

Yay.  Thanks Russ : )

Update on Peanut Baby Jesus, 2010:

Click here!


Blogathon 2010 – Smokey Dog

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

And now a word from our Pastor…Scott Christiansen is the Senior Pastor of Westwood Church in Omaha.  He is one of my very favorite people, a great leader and great man of God.  I have known Pastor Scott since I was in high school and he was the youth pastor at Westwood Church.  I asked him to write a guest post and kind of begged him to mention his super cute, super sweet dog, Smokey.  Turns out it’s all about Smokey Dog.  YAY!  Thanks Pastor Scott!

What I Have Learned from Smokey

For almost 8 years now one of my best friends in the world has been an 18 pound miniature schnauzer named Smokey.  Like all friends, we enjoy spending time together.  And like all friends we learn from each other.  From me, I’d like to think, Smokey has learned about the importance of outside bathroom habits, of avoiding being caught in chairs he is forbidden to be on and that the middle of the night isn’t a great time to want to go out.  But I’ve learned far more from him than he from me.  In fact from Smokey I’ve learned:

1.  That it is the little things in life that are the most important. Smokey typically accompanies me every morning when I drive my sons to their schools and he never fails to get excited, I mean REALLY excited about going.  When I get tired of the routine that is a part of everyone’s life I remember that Smokey savors every moment, every action, even the ones we take every single day.

2.  That naps are some of the best things in the world. Smokey is an expert napper and, by my count, sleeps most of his day way – interrupted by fierce moments of affection and play.  Not a bad way to live.

3.  That saying hello is better than saying goodbye. Smokey often only gives me a sad look when I leave the house without him but when I return he jumps up and down – eagerly demanding that I stop what I’m doing and take 5 minutes to say hello.

4.  That sometimes the best thing to do with a friend is just sit together. Smokey never reads when I read.  We don’t talk…much.  Smokey is completely uninterested in television or the newspaper.  But while I’m doing any one or two of the above Smokey likes to sit at my feet or beside me on the couch or even on my lap – just sitting.  Being close is enough for Smokey.

5.  That God loves me. God’s creatures sometimes come with fur and sometimes with skin but we are all gifts to each other.  I believe with all my heart that Smokey is a gift to me from God who knows me well enough to know that I have a space in my heart that only a dog can fill and loves me enough to want to fill that spot with a friend like Smokey.  I know Smokey won’t trot beside me forever but I also know that even when it is his turn to go back to God he won’t really leave because he will live on in my heart.

Clicking here will bring you to the webpage with information about Bradyn and an opportunity to donate towards the training of his service dog from 4 Paws for Ability. ♥


How I Got My Groove Back*

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

*My Freezer Meal-Preparing Groove, not anything risqué or even movie-worthy, which is why this is a blog post, not a two hour cinematic production.  It is, however, filled with passion and beautiful people.

Last spring I quit.  “Medical and ethical differences.”  There it is, without all my whining and with all of the expletives taken out.

I cried.  I vented.  “Sorry I stayed pissed off for so long.”  I tried to take it back.  “Sorry I said ‘pissed.'”  Things got worse.  I leaned on Russ.  I called Mom.  I e-mailed Dad, “He’s yelling again.  What do I do?”  We changed our phone number.

I have the most amazing parents and brothers in the world.  I dated little before Russ, and when I did, I was generally treated well.  And of course, Russ is wonderful.  All that to say, being mistreated shook me to the core.  I had never been treated so poorly, and did not know how to react.  I know, poor me, right?  But I had no tools with which to fight back.  I felt as though I had been sucker punched.  Over and over.

I stayed with Banfield.  I knew the company, when sticking to its written ideals, could thrive.  And look.  It works.  I needed to prove that, to myself?  To him?  I don’t know.  More than that, though, I needed to be where my values matched that of my team and my boss, and where I could be healthy.

I threw myself into writing, into facebook, into  twitter.  I found friends. One of my dearest friends is a wife of a veterinarian.  God has an amazing sense of humor, but I would bet most of His humor is over our heads and we usually miss it.

I drank.  A lot.  Fortunately, I drink Diet Coke.  I know the aspartame will get me, but if I were drinking alcohol at this rate, we’d all be in trouble.

I set out to prove men and women could be friends, and it didn’t have to end in a five year long horrible career mismatch that explodes in my face and scars me forever.  I probably overstepped in trying so hard to prove that.  If I did, I am sorry.  But thank you for being there for me.  And yup, it’s true, huh?  Things can be good.  Relationships can be healthy.

With my God and my friends and my family and my protected phone line surrounding me like a shield, I decided to no longer be frightened.

My fear had been conquered, well, if he isn’t around.  Otherwise, I still shake.  I moved on to the sadness.  I mourned the lost relationships in every crisscross pattern in which they had been tied.  Our kids had been friends.  We vacationed together.  We said things like Aunt and Uncle, boss, friend, brother and sister in Christ.  In that respect, we’re stuck with each other.  But I suppose God Himself can straighten that out later.

I went to church.  I came home and cried and slept till evening.  I did it again the next week.  I had no sympathy for people who had wandered off from Westwood this year.  Then I wished I were more sympathetic, like I used to be.  And is this really healthy?  But I go back again.

My garden last year was random and wild.  I think, “that matches the turmoil in my soul” then laugh and realize it is just untamed because I have been moping around and neglecting it.  It feels good to laugh.  This year’s garden is not as wonderful as in years past, but it is again beautiful and orderly, and it feels good to play in the dirt.

So here I am a year later.  I have a dream job.  I am free, even mandated, to treat people ethically and treat patients to the best of my medical ability.  I have what I hope is the start of a writing career.  I have my awesome family and friends.  I held on to my church with a closed fist – I know, you’re not supposed to hold anything with a closed fist, but I need it.

I went grocery shopping today.  I rarely do that anymore.  I used to do it weekly.  Now Russ has to pick stuff up every other day or so, because I just can’t.  Tonight, I am preparing freezer meals for the month, like my ex-boss’ wife and I used to do together every month.  And I will be with former coworkers.  And our leader had to postpone it once before because of a Terrible Sadness in her family.

I have perspective.  I don’t have enough perspective to say “It’s just freezer meals.”  But I do have enough perspective to say “Things could be worse, a lot worse.”  And looking around, things are actually pretty wonderful.  It’s been quite a year.

What I am Doing This Week: Spending Time With My Rodent Friends

Monday, January 25th, 2010

What I am doing this week is allowing all of my highs and lows to be determined solely on the basis of how the rodents in my life are faring.  Which, if you know me you know, is not unusual.  It just seems that this week, the highs have been especially high, and the lows have been especially low.

First of all, we found out this weekend that our Wuzzy Rat may have a serious illness.  I am still processing it.  And I don’t even know the whole story, just the beginning of it.  However, when I do, I will tell you about it here and maybe on the blog of the awesome website I am now also working with,

(I don’t know, is there a hairless rat blog section on

I will let you know as soon as I know more how she is doing and would appreciate your prayers for Wuzzy.

The good news this week is that starting in the spring, Petsmarts across the country will be carrying Oxbow Vitamin C tablets!! I have been discussing this the past few months with one of Petsmart’s veterinarians who oversees pet care nationally.  I have been asking if they would carry Oxbow Vitamin C 50 mg tablets and telling them why I think it is so important, and for such a large company, they responded amazingly fast.  I thought from the start that it was so kind of them to listen.  I know there were other pet lovers involved in their decision, but from here it feels like I said “Please?” and they said “Your opinion is valid” and more importantly, “yes.”



And in keeping with our rodent theme, here is the “note” I left my friend Jenn yesterday at church…

January 25, 2010  Jennifer VanCleve is my awesome friend who runs Westwood Church’s Preschool Program.  She asked me yesterday to check if her guinea pig Peanut was pregnant.  (She had accidently been left with a male guinea pig at a preschooler’s home.)  She was not.

January 29, 2010 Yes, now there is really is a hairless rat blog section on!  I was kidding about having a hairless rat blog section!  You guys are awesome!  It will be called The Wuzzy Chronicles.  Wuzzy’s first article is up now.  YAY!  I am so excited about this new project!

Talk about an emotional rodent week…while Wuzzy Rat is still not out of the woods health-wise, I just heard today that another Rat Friend, Jack the Rat, has passed away.  He was one of my very favorite patients, and the sweetest pet.  RIP buddy.  You will be dearly missed.

Walking Around Omaha (Bring a Leash)

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Happy New Year!

I have decided to dedicate an entire year’s worth of newsletters to health through fitness and nutrition.  This topic, and my New Year’s Resolution (which I will tell you in a minute), came as a result of seemingly random, unrelated interactions with five people, to whom I am deeply grateful.


To start, Janet Shulenberger of Nebraska Poodle Rescue asked me to dedicate a newsletter to obesity in dogs.  I thought that was a great idea.  However, weight management in pets is far too important and broad of a subject to cover in only one newsletter.  Instead, let’s make 2009 all about healthy living.  We will start with dog walking and cover different topics from there…other pets, nutrition, obesity-related diseases…let me know what you would like to discuss.  I decided to start with dog walking, because it has been on my mind a lot lately, and I have not been as diligent as I would like with my own health, or that of my dogs.


I visited a chiropractor recently for the first time in almost twenty years, Dr. Shawn Schmidt.  I was a little apprehensive, but soon realized that I did indeed need an attitude adjustment about my views on holistic health.  Dr. Shawn asked what I did for exercise, and I realized I did…nothing.  I had completely fallen out of the habit of any sort of physical activity.


Shortly before the great, internationally known speaker Luis Palau came to speak in Omaha during the summer of 2007, he challenged a group of Omahans to pick a few streets of Omaha and drive through them and pray for them on a regular basis.  I have been thinking about that challenge alot lately.


During a recent veterinary visit, my Aunt-in-Law Judy Finch asked if she could start walking her puppy Lucy three miles a day instead of their usual two, since Lucy was almost grown up.  I don’t know if I even answered.  (If I didn’t, my answer is, “Yes!  Of course!”)  I was just so impressed by Judy and her commitment to fitness, that I think I went right home to walk Ebony and Noodle, leaving poor Ken and Judy at the front desk with Lucy, and the rest of my clients and patients also standing around, I assume overnight, to be seen the next day, by a doctor who didn’t run off to walk her dogs.  It was a good walk though, and the three of us have been walking ever since.


And finally, Pastor Scott Christiansen challenged the entire congregation of Westwood Church to come up with individual blessing plans for 2009–ways we could each specifically help our community.  I said I would pray for Omaha.  I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but now I am starting to, and I think it will be kind of crazy…

My New Year’s Resolution…

I have decided that my New Year’s Resolution will be to walk with Ebony and Noodle the length of every street in the entire community by this time next year.  As I pass your home, your work, your hang-outs, I will pray for you.  If you will not be offended by that crazy offer, I will not be offended if you file it under “Can’t Hurt/Might Help.”

If you have a pet-friendly business, let me know and I will stop by.  If you want to walk with us, let me know when and where, and I will meet you.  So come on…this will be fun!  You keep doing what you are doing (How is that for a guilt-proof resolution?  You can’t fail!), and I will join you and get back into the habit of walking my dogs.

I believe if the five of you were standing together (Janet, Dr. Shawn, Luis, Judy and Pastor Scott), that would be such a cool group!  But what I was going to say is, if you were standing together, you would each be shaking your head and saying “That is NOT what I meant!”  Then you would turn to each other and say, “She is just a little off.”  And that is ok.  I have often been told that I am crazy (and I don’t think people are always kidding…)  So why not substantiate that with a crazy resolution?

I would not make this resolution without my dogs’ input if I thought there were any chance that they would object.  Their absolute favorite thing in the world is walks.  We cannot even spell “walk” anymore without them jumping in circles.  In fact, I looked around to make sure Ebony was not paying attention before I wrote this paragraph.  (Yes, my dogs are geniuses…well, half of my dogs are genius anyways.)

This will be fun!

So come with us!  No, not down every street!  That would be crazy!  Down YOUR street.  With YOUR dog.  YOU do not need such an insane goal as I am setting.  Your pets are in great shape.  Honestly.  For several years, the veterinary journals have been saying that anywhere from 60 to 66% of dogs in America are overweight.  Well, they are not my clients’ dogs!

Ernie plays with his toys so much, it is hard to keep him up at his ideal weight of four pounds!  Riley the Great Dane is a gorgeous, sleek dog made entirely of muscle and goofiness.  Her friend James the Mastiff is in just as good of shape.  Oreo is the only Boston Terrier I know who is not a bit overweight!  And Jacy May can eat whatever she wants and not gain a pound (sigh).

And if you are one of my clients with an overweight or out of shape dog, remember that there are seasons to life.  If you need to sit this one out, do.  Ebony has sat with me through bouts of depression (mine, not hers), crazy toddler years, injury, and just plain apathy.  We have had seasons of diligent exercise, but also seasons of being indoors together.

And there are the literal seasons too.  I have seen you out in the snow and the rain and the wind dutifully walking your dog…from my living room window.  I like to walk in perfect weather, which would explain quite a few of my stretches of inactivity, given that we live in Nebraska!

I do need to get my act together, though.  So keep me accountable.  And keep me company, at least in thought, as I set out to walk every street of our incredible city.  No, I have not thought through how many miles that is.  Russ said it may need to be a five-year plan, not a one-year plan.  But is that so bad?  If I try and all that happens is Ebony, Noodle and I get in better shape, and we have fun walking with whatever combination of friends we have with us, that will not be the worst failed resolution I have ever had.

So grab your pup and a leash.  Add a Gentle Leader or a harness if it will make your walk more enjoyable.  Bring a potty bag.  Muzzle your Pit Bull (or put their “Breed Ambassador” vest on – congratulations to you both!)  Let’s keep walking and see where we end up!

I will be the one with the gorgeous Black Lab cross with the purple Gentle Leader and the cute little black Poodle claiming all of Omaha with his pee.  I may or may not have my family and our friend Baby Kendal with us.  I am very good at getting lost, so I will put Russ in charge of my route.  I will keep you updated on how the walking every street of Omaha goal goes…I know it is crazy, but somehow the idea is appealing to me.  I think it will be fun to try.  I have decided to file it under “Can’t Hurt/Might Help.”

the end…